My cousin, Maria and I flew out of Stuttgart on September 16, 2007, and landed in Bucharest as the sunset washed the countryside in an peachy glow. At a nearby hotel, we met my two brothers, Paul and Bill, and Bill’s wife. The next morning, we squished five people and their luggage into a mini-van and took off for Hermannstadt (Sibiu), the big city near the two small towns, Neppendorf and Grosspold, which were the original homes to my grandfather and grandmother, respectively.

Peles Castle in Sinaei, Romania

Peles Castle in Sinaei, Romania

On the way, we stopped for a few hours in Sinaei (named after Mt. Sinai, of Ten Commandments fame) to view Peles Castle on a perfect blue-sky day, crossing a brook, having wine on a terrace overlooking the castle, laughing and telling jokes and stories about our childhood.

Continuing on to Sibiu/Hermannstadt, the going was slow as the major highway was under reconstruction (roads and streets were ripped apart everywhere in an effort to rebuild a country that had been working for almost two decades   to overcome the neglect and brutalization under Ceausescu).

Scenes along the road were of another era. Passing through one small town near sunset, we yielded to cows on the highway driven home  from the pastures. Old women in their babushkas and long skirts sat at the side of the road, perhaps waiting for loved ones to return from the fields or watching the world go by.




We arrived at 9 p.m. in Sibiu, exhausted after about ten hours of travel, but were rewarded with dinner in a cellar restaurant with ancient brick domed walls, entertained by the musical duo pictured here. Lots of meat and salads of tomatoes and onions were typical menu choices.

We overnighted right next to the Evangelische Kirche Neppendorf, (Lutheran Church in Neppendorf) where the Gärtz family had worshipped for two centuries. In the next few posts, we’ll see the  secrets this church yielded to expose unknown family  history.